Inch By Inch, Row By Row, I'm Gonna Make This Garden Grow – Even If It Kills Me

Hunched over like Quasimodo the other day while I hacked a trench with a mattock and then dropped pinpoint-size kale seeds into damp garden soil (why do they have to be so blasted tiny?!), I nonetheless found myself humming "Garden Song," David Mallet's iconic folk song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary:

Inch by inch, row by row,

I'm gonna make this garden grow


All it takes is a rake and a hoe

and a piece of fertile ground.

Granted, the song does mention the need for "pullin' weeds and pickin' stones," but by and large it implies all you need to produce fruits and vegetables – besides the aforementioned rake, hoe and fertile ground – are some seeds, sun and rain tumbling down. Oh, and it helps if you "temper them with prayer and song."

Would that it were so easy.

Not that I'm complaining – I knew what I was getting into years ago after having evolved beyond tossing a handful of zucchini seeds into a patch of dirt behind the house.

Loyal readers will recall my constant battles with voracious deer and catbirds, which for the time being I have prevailed only because I toiled for weeks constructing a 10-foot-high fence around the entire 500-foot garden perimeter, along with framework for netting that covers blueberry plants and grapevines.

These defenses may have stymied four-legged and feathered freeloaders, but were easily penetrated last year by another invader: a fleet of Japanese beetles, which almost overnight devoured all my Brussels sprouts and grape leaves. By the time I discovered the infestation the damage had been done.

Spraying insecticide is not an option, and I have neither the desire nor patience to pluck beetles one by one and drop them into a jar of kerosene, which some old-time farmers recommend.

All right, enough about failure and frustration – let's move on to reward and satisfaction.

First of all, I was thrilled – thrilled! – a few weeks ago to see garlic shoots poking through barely thawed soil. I had saved 25 bulbs from last summer's bumper crop, and then in the fall divided them into 100 cloves that I stuck in the ground and covered with composted cow manure and a 6-inch layer of ground-up leaves.

Planting always requires a leap of faith, especially before a frigid winter, but voila! All 100 cloves germinated into new plants, so by midsummer our home once again will be redolent with the intoxicating aroma of sautéed garlic – not to mention vampire-free.

After I planted four rows of kale the other day I also put in about a dozen rows of peas and onions. Later, when the weather warms, I'll add tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans and other veggies. As much as I crave broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts I'll skip the cruciferous plants, which seem to require more maintenance, and stick to ones that produce a reliable harvest.

Earlier in the week I also transplanted about 100 pine and spruce seedlings from a makeshift nursery adjoining the garden to various places in the woods where I've cut trees for firewood. Next week I'm picking up another 100 tree seedlings that eventually will find their way into the forest after they've had a couple years in the nursery developing firmer root systems.

Yes, you do grow a garden inch by inch and row by row, but another line from Mallett's classic song also resonates:

Mother earth can keep you strong if you give her love and care.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Tom And Steve’s Excellent Adventures In The Northwest Part III: Kayaking Off The Oregon Coast And Columbia River Gorge; Hiking On Mount Saint Helens

Propelled by the sound of crashing surf, my son Tom and I scrambled over a low dune and then gazed in awe.

A Connecticut Yankee In The Northwest Part II: A Cross-Country Ski Adventure, Of Sorts, At Oregon's Crater Lake

Lugging back-country skis and poles on our shoulders, my son Tom and I trudged along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway at Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, searching for a section of road that had not been plowed.

A Connecticut Yankee In The Northwest: Stunning Views, Adventures On Land And Water (Part I)

As I clambered toward the crest of the Mist Trail in California’s Yosemite National Park a couple weeks ago, spray from the thunderous Nevada Fall washed over me, but I was already soaked, with sweat, after gaining nearly 2,000 feet of...

Vacations From Hell: At Least They’re Memorable

Just between us, don’t you hate it when friends or coworkers post photos on Facebook of awesome journeys to exotic destinations – or if they’re really old-school, send postcards depicting glorious sunsets, sparkling lakes,...

In Stride With Women Runners: Amby Burfoot Celebrates Their History In A New Book

Back in the Dark Ages when I was growing up, one of the worst insults an adolescent male could hurl at one of his buddies was, "You run like a girl!"

Danger, Swan Attack! Quick, Wring Its Neck!

It’s difficult to imagine a more outrageous example of idiotic government overreaction than this week’s incident involving a mute swan on Five Mile Pond in Danielson, which would almost be laughable if the outcome weren’t so...

The Parable Of The Rope: An Icy Mountain Drama In New Hampshire's Carter Notch

With a blustery breeze making the 8-degree temperature feel as if were a few notches below zero, our group didn’t intend to dawdle while scrambling back to civilization. The mountain hut where we spent the night had been so frigid my boots...

Over The Falls! A Salmon River Adventure

You know that feeling when you’re about to attempt something adventurous that at first seemed it would be fun, but then doubts about your safety and sanity crept in? Oh no! Too late!

There's No Such Thing As Too Much Garlic

A few years ago, while visiting relatives in Canada, I noticed a giant basket of produce in a corner of the kitchen. "Wow! Where’d you get all that garlic?" I asked.

Plenty Of Mudslinging On The Trail

Well, we’ve made it through another winter, though for snow and ice fans it was pretty pitiful – but we’re not quite out of the woods when it comes to challenging hiking conditions.

Hey, Shaddup Out There! At Least Can You Tone Down All That Screeching, Snorting, Squawking, Croaking, Buzzing And Howling?

OK, I get it. It’s mating season, when all the furry, feathered and slimy critters are desperate for a little action, using the only pickup technique they know: make loud noises.

'Life Is Full of Roadblocks, But You Have to Drive Through Them' – Dirk Vlieks' Inspiring Recovery

After having swum the 1.2-mile leg of Hawaii’s Rohto Half-Ironman triathlon Dirk Vlieks of Mystic was 22 miles into the 56-mile bike section, already thinking ahead to the 13.1-mile run to the finish line, when he began to feel...

My Acute Case of OCWD (Obsessive Compulsive Wood Disorder)

You’d think that those of us who heat with wood can relax this time of year when we no longer must make 10 trips a day to the woodshed, stumble out of bed at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, continuously shovel ashes and forage the forest for...